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Concert in Memory of JFK: Immortality in the Presidency

This article appeared in the January 24, 2014 issue of Executive Intelligence Review. We post it here with the permission of the publisher.

By Dennis Speed

I was Twenty-three years old at the turn of the century. It was a time of brave expectations. Many believed that a new epoch was at hand—that the dawn of the twentieth century would prove to be a turning point in the affairs of men. They cited recent scientific advances and predicted a future of great social progress. The era, they said, was approaching when poverty and hunger would at last disappear. In the way people make fervent resolutions at the start of a new year, the world seemed to be resolving at the start of a new century to undergo a change for the better. Who then foresaw that the coming decades would bring the unimaginable horrors of two world wars, concentration camps, and atomic bombs?

Pablo Casals,
Joys And Sorrows

Those capable of foresight—and for civilization to survive, the American population must become so capable—will recognize the truth in Casals’ observation. Yet, it is our duty to shape the future, and thus to know it. To paraphrase another slain U.S. President: We are now engaged in a 150 years war, testing whether any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, as is the United States, can long endure. Assassinations against American Presidents, have been the preferred criminal method of choice, for dealing with the problem of the American Cultural Exception. So it was with John Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Dr. Martin Luther King.

To respond to the challenge of reproducing and increasing the power of foresight for civilization’s survival in the short and long term is the unique mission of the Schiller Institute, a mission which the Institute brought to the City of Boston on Sunday, Jan. 19. The Schiller Institute Chorus, augmented by additional singers and an orchestra largely comprised of volunteers from the New England Conservatory of Music, presented Mozart’s Requiem in its entirety to an audience of 1,200 at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, performed exactly 50 years to the day, of a 1964 Solemn High Requiem Mass specially requested by the Kennedy family.

One year after his October 1962 defiance of that faction of “principalities and powers,” including Britain’s Lord Bertrand Russell, that dared to believe that nuclear war against the Soviet Union was not only conceivable, but winnable (the Cuban Missile crisis), John Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. His assassination, along with that of his brother Robert, and of Martin Luther King, has hung “like a dead hand upon the brain of the living,” until now. Four generations have been unable to shake off their effects. That is because there is only one reliable method for doing so: People must be elevated above and beyond their own pre-selected, limiting self-expectation. People require, not “the facts” of “what really happened,” but the fire of insight needed to reverse our unending national trauma. No preaching, slogans, or imprecations will cause a terrorized people to have courage. Only their own voices, heard as through the mirror of a great artistic performance, can move the despairing to a higher place, a mountaintop where their souls, much to their surprise, actually live.

Conductor and Schiller Institute Music Director John Sigerson, in an interview with a reporter from The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston diocese, was asked whether the Schiller Institute believes that “Classical music can create a change in our culture.” Sigerson’s answer to this was “No.” Rather, he asserted, it was the juxtaposition of the “musical” with the “non-musical,” in this case several excerpts of speeches by JFK, heard at precisely selected points in the Requiem, that would allow members of the audience to be provoked to change their minds, and thus hear the music. Sigerson said: “The JFK speeches alone wouldn’t work, and the music alone wouldn’t work. It’s the uncomfortable juxtaposition of the two that works,” this by creating an unexpected cognitive discomfort and tension for the audience.

The Schiller Institute has employed for the second time—the first being in Vienna, Va., on Nov. 22, the 50th anniversary of the President’s assassination—the spiritual and therapeutic power of the MozartRequiem to restore the power of cognition to Americans. As Schiller Institute Founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche said in her remarks, such a Classical revival is necessary to inspire Americans to take up Kennedy’s mission again, even as the world currently stands at the edge of thermonuclear war.

The Preparation of the Audience

Master of Ceremonies Matthew Ogden provided a prelude to the music, using a selection of speakers, messages, and quotations to allow everyone in the audience equal access to the depth of meaning contained in the moments they were about to experience, “not in time, but in the Idea,” as Nicholas of Cusa says. For those two and one-half hours, the “virtual reality” brainwashing that accounts for the toleration of a Nietzschean “all is permissible” popular “culture” was interrupted. Those who might have objected that “it’s too long for the audience to concentrate” were once again proven wrong. It was essential that they be prepared to listen, and not merely hear, the Mozart composition. But why?

In the words of the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, “As far as music is concerned, there is nothing about which the so-called ‘public’ knows less than about its own mind. Above all, there is one prior condition needful to the listener—whether as an individual or as an audience—if he is to formulate a judgment of real value: and that is, he must have enough time.” This essential pre-condition having been met before a single note was sung, the audience was thus pre-organized to respond at a higher level than it would otherwise have been capable, even with the best musical performance.

There was more to the audience preparation, however. This audience was assembled through a thorough, consistent political intervention and fight. This audience recruitment was the result of an intense organizing effort conducted over about six weeks or so. There was a successful “outreach” campaign throughout the Boston metropolitan area. One portion of the audience had come because of ads in theBoston Globe and other news outlets. The Pilot was cited by many as their source of news. Several Boston schools and colleges were represented, along with senior centers and various community organizations. Leaflets and posters were distributed in Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Portuguese, English, and French. Several foreign consulates attended the concert, as well as state representatives from Maine and Rhode Island. There were messages from Michael D. Higgins, President of the Republic of Ireland; Boston City Councilman Steven Murphy; and from Nicholas Di Virgilio, tenor, the only surviving soloist from the 1964 concert (see below for his remarks).

Many who attended recalled having been at the 1964 performance: it must be remembered that for the then-largely Catholic Boston, Holy Cross was their local church. Ray Flynn, former Boston Mayor, and later, Ambassador to the Vatican, who had also attended the 1964 performance, expressed the sense of gratitude and true happiness that the citizens of Boston felt for the thoughtfulness that went into ensuring that the historic nature of the occasion did not go unrecognized (see box).

The Performance, and the ‘Pitch’

The Schiller Institute Chorus, soloists Ron Williams (baritone), William Ferguson (tenor), Heather Gallagher (mezzo-soprano) and Nataly Wickham (soprano), and the largely New England Conservatory of Music-based freelance orchestra constituted for Sunday’s performance, accomplished its primary task: to present the Mozart Requiem as a single, unified Idea. The unity of effect of the performance allowed the words of President Kennedy, the which worked to punctuate and underscore Mozart’s presentation of the idea of immortality, to pose a dialogue about the nature of immortality’s triumph over death with each audience member, as well as the audience as a whole. Maestro Sigerson also noted that the performances of the “Recordare” and “Benedictus” sections of the piece, both set for vocal quartet, were “of a piece” with the entirety, and were delivered with the exact meaning that Mozart intended them to convey.

The performance was conducted at a tuning of A=432, nearly a quarter tone lower than most modern performances, and is a standard feature of Schiller Institute musical practice. While this is sometimes referred to as the “lower” tuning, that designation is imprecise. It is the propertuning; it is merely “lower” than what is currently practiced as the wrong, “higher” tuning. The tuning range for music is perhaps more clearly stated as middle C=256 cycles per second, which yields an A=427-432. The C=256 is the tuning at which the Mozart Requiem was composed, designed, and intended to be heard.

The next day, The Boston Music Intelligencer, self-described as a “virtual journal and essential blog of the classical music scene in greater Boston,” ran an extensive positive review under the headline, “JFK Remembered in Musical Tribute,” characterizing it as “a polished traditional performance.”

One of the supporters of the Schiller Institute, conductor Anthony Morss, who has worked with, and conducted experiments demonstrating the reasons for insisting on what is also referred to as, “the Verdi pitch,” supplied an essay that appeared in the concert program intended to provide some background on the matter (see below).

Art as Necessity

The necessity of art—not only its moral, but physical necessity—was stressed in the brief and precise remarks directed to the audience by Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche.

“It is necessary to commemorate the celebration of Mozart’s Requiemwhich was performed for John F. Kennedy, 50 years ago in this cathedral. It is urgent to evoke again the divine spirit of beauty of Mozart’s composition in order to reconnect us with the better world which both Kennedy and Mozart represent,” she said. Zepp-LaRouche insisted, along with the “Poet of Freedom” Friedrich Schiller, after whom the Institute, which celebrates its 30th year in 2014, was named and founded by her, that death is swallowed up in the victory of the power of musical immortality as Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven exemplify, and as the power of the Kennedy Apollo Project also demonstrates. Kennedy’s optimism allowed every American, and, with the successful landing of the human species on the moon, everyone on the planet, to know, by demonstration, that the mind, though contained in a body, is not that body; the mind has no physical limits (see box).

Zepp-LaRouche’s reference to “reconnection to a better world” highlighted the inevitable and necessary Ideas that were not merely evoked, but provoked, by the performance. And, it must needs be so: Kennedy’s appreciation for and promotion of the Classical arts and of Classical artists was at the very foundation of his Presidency, though this has been largely ignored in these intervening years. Who, for example, would even today recognize these as the words of JFK, given on the occasion of a commemoration of the poet Robert Frost at Amherst College, October 26, 1963, less than a month before his death?

“Our national strength matters, but the spirit which informs and controls our strength matters just as much. This was the special significance of Robert Frost…. it is hardly an accident that Robert Frost coupled poetry and power, for he saw poetry as the means of saving power from itself. When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.”

Now, and Then

There were some key differences between the 1964 and 2014 performances. In 1964, it was an astonishing step to include the Mozart Requiem in the context of the Catholic Solemn High Requiem Mass ceremony—the first time that that had ever been done in the United States.

There was another important difference. In the case of this performance-commemoration, 50 years of erosion of the thinking capacities of the American people, particularly by means of the cacophonous obscenity known as “popular entertainment”—including in the form of the post-2000 American Presidencies—required a uniquely insightful rendering of the music by the performers.

It is essential to note, that the chorus was composed of non-professional Schiller Institute singers, many of whom are involved in daily organizing work with both Helga and Lyndon LaRouche. Initially, many Boston-based semi-professional and professional singers had volunteered to be part of the performance, but withdrew because of a campaign denouncing the Schiller Institute, carried out by certain local members of the Democratic Party to intimidate singers. Some refused to listen, and thus “qualified” themselves to participate. Importantly, not only did the local organizers of the event, composed primarily of former members of the LaRouche Youth Movement who were assisted by an experienced and older group of LaRouche Political Action Committee organizers, not attempt to conceal in any way “who they were.” In fact, the organizers insisted that everyone they speak with fully understandwhy it was that only the Schiller Institute, and Lyndon and Helga LaRouche, out of everyone in the United States, had insisted that this 50th anniversary commemoration take place.

To answer that question, we pose a seemingly unrelated question, actually identical to the first.

Why was Kennedy, despite his flaws, seen as exceptional by people who were often critical (and sometimes pitiless) judges of human character, such as Charles de Gaulle, Douglas MacArthur, and Eleanor Roosevelt? Posed another way: Why did Kennedy embody for these severe critics of human character, as well as for many “normal Americans,” an efficient deployment of the U.S. Presidency on behalf of furthering the progress, not merely of the United States, but of mankind?

The answer to this is posed as follows.

A statement from his Jan. 20, 1961 Inaugural Address, differentiated Kennedy then, and differentiates Kennedy now, from all the Presidents who have served after him: After listing all of the tasks his Administration will aspire to accomplish, including “a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself,” Kennedy observed:

“All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

Kennedy forecasted his “willed fate” truthfully, and acted accordingly. Despite all the things he did not live to accomplish, in that thousand days, Kennedy managed to save the world from nuclear destruction, and send to, and put the human race on the Moon. The capacity to access the revolutionary principle embedded in the American Constitution and its Declaration of Independence, on which the Lincoln and Kennedy Administrations built their respective commitments and contributions to American progress, has simply not emanated from the Presidency as the guiding policy outlook of any U.S. Administration since Kennedy’s assassination.

In fact, today, the opposite commitment now exists, in the form of the Obama Administration, and the predecessor Bush Administration, and must be reversed by an American people made culturally competent to do so.

That is the reason that the Schiller Institute was uniquely qualified to propose, organize, and perform the Nov. 22 and Jan. 19 Kennedy remembrances. We refuse to submit to voluntary amnesia. There is a connection between courage and intelligence. Kennedy lived up to his own studies of courage under adversity. None of us can do less.


The Schiller Institute Presents: A Tribute to John F. Kennedy — W.A. MOZART · REQUIEM

Click image to enlarge:

Invitation Flyer

Download Flyer (PDF)


On January 19, 1964, Boston Honored Her Fallen Son John Fitzgerald Kennedy With A Performance of Mozart’s Requiem at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

Join Us, Exactly 50 Years Later, In A Commemorative Performance.

SUNDAY, JAN. 19, 2014
3:00 PM

CATHEDRAL OF THE HOLY CROSS
1400 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118

Admission is free. First come, first seated.

“From the past, man obtains the insights, wisdom and hope to face with confidence the uncertainties of the future.”

John F. Kennedy’s remarks to the centennial of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1963, three days before his death

It is fitting that 50 years later we commemorate the spirit of cultural and economic progress that John F. Kennedy’s leadership represented for America and the world. With this spirit, President Kennedy confronted and sought to overcome the terrifying prospects of global war, poverty, and human degradation that faced our nation and the world during his time. In the intervening years, these existential problems have come to threaten mankind in even greater magnitude, but the national mind that had joyfully embraced the challenge to conquer the Moon, has been supplanted by a spirit that belittles the sacredness of the human individual and the power of human creativity.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem is a most fitting tribute to John F. Kennedy, as Mozart’s work communicates the same optimism and belief in man’s infinite progress to which President Kennedy dedicated his life. The spark of optimism which marked the Kennedy era, though dimmed, is still present among us because it is embedded in the very fabric of our nation from its founding.

Let us honor the memory of John Kennedy by not only reflecting on what was, and what could have been, but on how our culture has changed, and how we must now recommit ourselves to its renewal.

The concert will be performed by the Schiller Institute Chorus along with an orchestra and soloists assembled for the occasion by the Schiller Institute. The performance will be at the natural “Verdi tuning” of A=432 Hz.

The Schiller Institute was founded in 1984 on the initiative of Helga Zepp-LaRouche, wife of the American statesman and physical economist Lyndon LaRouche, for the purpose of reviving the paradigm of Classical culture and reasserting the right of all humanity to material, moral, and intellectual progress. It is named after Friedrich Schiller, the “Poet of Freedom” whose ”Ode to Joy” is immortalized by Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony.

 


Schiller Institute To Present Mozart Requiem in Remembrance of President John F. Kennedy

Concert page now published here!


Download Flyer as PDF

The Schiller Institute announced today that it will present “A Remembrance of President John F. Kennedy and Recommitment to the Principles of His Presidency, Featuring a Performance of W.A. Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, K. 626” on Friday, November 22, 8:00 p.m., at St. Mark Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia.

The concert will be performed by the Schiller Institute Chorus along with an orchestra and soloists assembled for the occasion by the Schiller Institute. The performance will be at the natural “Verdi tuning” of A=432 Hz, in keeping with the Schiller Institute’s decades-long campaign to return to the tuning which has been demonstrated to maximize the beauty of the singing voice and of fine musical instruments.

Admission is free: first come, first seated. More information can be obtained at: requiemconcert@schillerinstitute.org, or (703) 771-8390. For directions to St. Mark Catholic Church, see http://www.stmark.org/directions/.

In its flyer for the concert, the Schiller Institute elaborates on why it is holding this event at this time.

“From the past, man obtains the insights, wisdom and hope to face with confidence the uncertainties of the future.”
—President John F. Kennedy’s remarks to the centennial of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, November 19, 1963—three days before his death

President John F. KennedyNovember 22, 2013, will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It is fitting on that solemn occasion to commemorate the spirit of cultural and economic progress with which Kennedy confronted, and sought to overcome, the terrifying prospects of global war, poverty, and human degradation that faced our nation and the world during his time. In the intervening years, these existential problems have come to threaten mankind in even greater magnitude, yet our national spirit of progress has been replaced with cultural pessimism and indifference. The great economic, scientific, and cultural projects begun then have long ago been dismantled, and their memory buried and all but forgotten. The national mind that joyfully embraced the challenge to conquer the Moon has been supplanted by a spirit that belittles the power of human creativity and accepts the inevitability of economic decline.

Therefore, to properly honor the memory of John Kennedy, not only must we reflect on what was, and what could have been, but on how our culture has changed, so that we can recommit ourselves to its revival. The spark of optimism which marked the Kennedy era, though dimmed, is still present among us, because it is embedded in the very fabric of our nation from its founding, having its roots in the great Renaissance thinker Nicholas of Cusa, in such works as his Concordantia Catholicaand De Docta Ignorantia.

Wolfgang Amadeus MozartWolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem is a most fitting tribute to Kennedy. It expresses Mozart’s passion for the concept of Man which he saw, in his time, as forming the basis for the establishment of the American republic, that Kennedy would come to promote and defend, and because the young genius Mozart pitted his creations directly against the same regressive social forces which arranged the assassinations of the President, his brother, and Martin Luther King.

An honest performance of Mozart’s work communicates the same optimism and belief in man’s infinite progress to which Kennedy, following in Franklin Roosevelt’s footsteps, dedicated his life, in resolute opposition to those who wish to drastically reduce the world’s population through perpetual warfare and denial of basic needs, and in affirmation of that which distinguishes him uniquely from the beasts, namely his creative capacity to discover new, yet-unthought universal principles.

The Schiller Institute was founded in 1984 on the initiative of Helga Zepp-LaRouche, wife of the American statesman and physical economist Lyndon LaRouche, for the purpose of reviving the paradigm of Classical culture and reasserting the right of all humanity to material, moral, and intellectual progress. It is named after Friedrich Schiller, the Poet of Freedom whose Ode to Joy is immortalized by Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony. The institute has sponsored many international conferences devoted to promoting the idea that a dialogue among cultures can only be fruitful when it focuses on each culture’s noblest expression.

For more about the Schiller Institute and its activities, seehttp://www.schillerinstitute.org and also http://newparadigm.schillerinstitute.com.

Download Flyer as PDF


Concert page now published here!


Schiller Institute NYC Chorus Memorializes LaRouche in Bronx Concert

On Sunday May 5th, the Schiller Institute NYC Chorus performed the Mozart Solemn Vespers, African-American Spirituals, and Verdi at a concert dedicated to the memory of Lyndon LaRouche in Little Italy of the Bronx. The chorus was joined by five professional soloists and orchestra, and everything, except the Bach organ prelude was performed at the Verdi tuning of c=256 Hz.

250-300 people turned out in the pouring rain to hear this wonderful program, which opened with the church organist playing a Bach organ prelude, and ended with Italian Opera arias sung by the soloists. Although there were several young children in the crowd, there was not a sound, except applause, which erupted after the first amen in the Vespers. One person commented that the Vespers was performed in such a transparent way that the genius of Mozart leapt out at him—the orchestra playing counterpoint to the chorus, as another voice, and not a unison.

may-5th-bronx

Having everyone’s best loved Italian Opera arias sung by African-American, Chinese, and Greek soloists definitely demonstrated the universal quality of great music, and thrilled the Italian-Americans in the audience, and several were heard to be singing along by the end.

Also in attendance was the Ambassador from Sri Lanka to the UN, who was recognized by the priest and by Dennis Speed in his welcoming remarks, who expressed a dedication to the memory of those who had perished in the Easter massacres in Sri Lanka, killing over 300 people, including children in Sunday School. In dedicating the concert to Lyndon LaRouche, Dennis quoted from LaRouche’s review of the Mozart opera La Clemenza di Tito, and spoke of Lyndon’s critical insights and support for the choral process in Manhattan.

“All Classical art speaks directly to you, as an individual personality; it addresses the question each of us must ask ourselves at some point in our lives, or perhaps even repeatedly,
‘Who am I, and what are we? Since we are all born, and shall die, what is the meaning of that individual existence we occupy between birth and death? What is the continuation of that life, even after we are dead?’ Thus, great Classical art touches the same issues as Christianity and the themes of Judaism treated by the great Moses Mendelssohn.

“So, Mozart speaks to you personally, through La Clemenza di Tito, from the operatic stage. “Mozart does not preach; he evokes the experience of the discovery of the principle of agapë within the cognitive experience of the individual member of the audience, by means of the unfolding, ironical development within the drama as a whole. In the history of Christianity, for example, it has been the similar re-experiencing of the Passion of Christ from Gethsemane through and beyond the Crucifixion, which has been the artistic quality of reliving that impassioned experience upon which the strength of Christianity has depended. There is perhaps no more conclusive demonstration of that, than is supplied by J.S. Bach’s
St. Matthew Passion.

“…At the time of his death, and earlier, Mozart was essentially a leading Christian of his time, as his Ave Verum Corpus expresses this principle of Classical artistic composition with wonderful succinctness.” 

Lyndon LaRouche

The chorus, now in its 5th year, has 80 members from Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and northern NJ, and the singers range in age from 27 to 89, and include college students, young professionals and retired people, a Chinese concert pianist, and a Bishop from a Church in Harlem, who also speaks German. They have all developed over the years, to the point that new members often flee, intimidated by the quality of the Manhattan rehearsal, and we have to call them back and assure them that many of the people they think sound so good, also couldn’t read music when they joined. (And many still can’t.)

The audience was largely from the neighborhood of the church, which is a very well-known Italian area, and has Italian shops, restaurants and bakeries which have been in the same families for over a century, in several cases. Italian-Americans from all over Westchester County, NJ and Connecticut come here to get their favorite Italian foods. These shop owners have been regular patrons of the chorus, buying ads in our programs for the last 3 years, and always asking us, “When are you going to hold a concert in the Bronx???” They were thrilled that we finally were at their church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The associate priest, who is from Ghana, loved every minute of the concert and asked us to come back. When we said, “Yes, maybe next year.” He said, “I wish you could be here every day!”

Video coming soon!

To find out more about the NYC Schiller Institute Chorus, visit sinycchorus.com.


At the Dawn of a Musical Revolution:

Mozart’s Solemn Vespers

The following was written by Schiller Institute music director, John Sigerson, who conducted the May 5 performance in New York City.

By the time he composed the Vesperae solennes de confessore in 1780, the 24-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was already a vastly accomplished composer who had produced 14 masses and hundreds of other works. Yet in this work, a setting of one of the most ancient offices of the Catholic Church, we experience vigorous new buds of a musical and scientific revolution—a revolution that today is making it possible to raise all humanity “out of the dust, and lift the needy out of the dunghill” (Psalm 113, “Laudate pueri”).

For today, we can celebrate the fact that the nation of Italy, cradle of the high Florentine Renaissance and of the Church, has reached out to officially join with history’s greatest movement to eliminate poverty worldwide, China’s “New Silk Road” or “Belt and Road” initiative, a policy grounded in Confucian principles which resonate with those of the best of the Western Christian humanist tradition.

“But wait a minute!” you might be saying to yourself. “How could a revolution in music possibly launch an economic plan to eliminate poverty worldwide?” The answer is both simple and complex: We are all human, and unlike other animals and inanimate things, our ability to make breakthroughs in our spiritual grasp of universal principles governing the created universe, enables us physically to devise new technologies, and also new forms of culture, to harness those principles for the betterment of all mankind. Every truly great physical scientist, from Nicholas of Cusa and Kepler to Einstein and Vernadsky, every great physical economist from Gottfried Leibniz and Alexander Hamilton to Lyndon LaRouche, and every great Classical composer from J.S. Bach to Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, well knew that connection.

The nature of what is best termed the Mozart-Haydn Revolution in Music, in fact occurred about two years after Mozart composed the Vespers, i.e. in 1781-82, when Mozart, who had just moved his family to Vienna, participated in discussions with Josef Haydn and others at the salon of Baron van Swieten, who from Berlin had brought back manuscripts of the virtually suppressed works of Johann Sebastian Bach. For both Mozart and Haydn, the explosive impact of Bach’s works such as The Musical Offering and The Art of the Fugue unleashed “a new way of composing” (in Haydn’s words), based not on melodic forms, but rather on more fundamental elements underlying those forms. This new method has been described by Norbert Brainin, the late first violinist of the legendary Amadeus Quartet, as Motivführung, or motivic thorough-composition; it frees all the voices in a composition to generate new forms in such a way, that it is not the sounds of the music—however pleasant they may be—but rather the underlying, soundless musical/poetic ideas which govern the development.

Returning to Mozart’s 1780 Vespers, in hindsight we see here the buds that bore that rich fruit, in relation both to J.S. Bach, but also to Mozart’s older friend Josef Haydn.

Take, for example, the second piece in the series, “Confitebor,” a setting of Psalm 111. Anyone who has heard J.S. Bach’s famous cantata “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” will immediately hear this echoed in the opening bars of the “Confitebor,” which also happens to be in the same key of E-flat Major. Had Mozart seen or heard that cantata? Probably not in performance. The original Lutheran hymn with that melody was first published in 1599 by Philipp Nicolai, and stood in many Lutheran hymnals. But more likely, is that it was suggested to Mozart directly, via a member of Bach’s large family which extended throughout Europe.

Consider this: In April 1778, J.S. Bach’s fourth son, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, traveled along with his own son Wilhelm to London, where he met up with his brother, Johann Christian Bach. Two years later, in 1780, J.C.F. Bach composed his own cantata “Wachet auf” as a tribute to his father, further developing its theme. We can only speculate that when he met his brother in London two years earlier, his plans to compose it were already ripening, and that it formed part of their discussions.

Now pursue the trail further: Five months later, in August 1778, Johann Christian Bach traveled to France, where he met 22-year-old Mozart at the estate of Louis, Maréchal de Noailles. (France had recognized the new American republic in April 1778; de Noailles was a backer of the American war against the British Empire, and his granddaughter’s husband had joined with Lafayette in George Washington’s army.) J.C. Bach, then 42, was a long-time mentor and friend of Mozart, having first met him in 1764 when Mozart’s father took the eight-year-old prodigy to London. Much later, Mozart’s sister Nannerl recollected that

“Herr Johann Christian Bach, music master of the queen, took Wolfgang between his knees. He would play a few measures; then Wolfgang would continue. In this manner they played entire sonatas. Unless you saw it with your own eyes, you would swear that just one person was playing.”

Could J.C. Bach have suggested the “Wachet auf” theme that his brother was working on, to his younger friend? Perhaps, perhaps not, but the facts alone already give an idea of the rich interpenetration of ideas among Europe’s greatest musical minds. The Vesperae solennes, far from being a “solemn” work which its title might suggest, is bubbling with optimism and kernels of ideas which he developed in his later works, especially his operas. In fact, these little idea-lets fly by so quickly, that one scarcely has time to take one in, before yet another cascades in.

In part, this lack of time to develop ideas was an evil from which Mozart was already plotting to escape, namely from the Bishop of Salzburg’s strict edict that no work of sacred music last longer than 30 minutes! Fortunately, we today do not have to adhere to the Bishop’s arbitrary rule, and so we shall take a bit longer than that, in the hope that you may manage to take in as many snatches as possible of these great ideas.


Houston Concert: The Healing Power of Mozart & Spirituals

The Houston Schiller Institute Community Chorus, with Maestro Dorceal Duckens, our great pianist Joshua, and newly added string players, made beautiful music unto Heaven during our May 5th concert at the Riverside United Methodist Church, 3rd Ward, Houston. Ironically, the lights in the church sanctuary were not working the day of the concert; thus, creating a dramatic setting as the sun set through the church’s gorgeous stained glass windows. With wonderful acoustics in the church, and the evening sun filling the sanctuary, the concert made a big impact on the audience. The “Mozart Effect” on the 50+ attendees in audience was palpable.

While the church was not full, those in attendance reflected a broad outreach of our organizing around the city. We had a number of pastors, several members of the Ebony Opera Guild, members of our director’s church, Chinese contacts of the Schiller Institute, and a few members of the Riverside Church. Many attending knew Maestro Duckens only as a great singer and were amazed to discover he is also a great conductor! Also in attendance was the vocal coach from another local opera company, as well as the Choir Master from a local church.  A couple drove over an hour after they had seen the concert advertised on an online blog. Before the concert, while speaking to a member of the chorus, the couple was very curious about the connection between Schiller the poet, economics, politics, and music but as they were leaving, they shook the member’s hand and promised they were going to look up Schiller when they got home.  One of the directors from a homeless center was amazed. He had never heard Mozart performed before and had no idea about his role in the American Revolution. Another woman, employed by the church, told a member of the chorus she used to be a singer until she developed nodes on her vocal chords and could no longer sing the high soprano notes. Imagine her fascination when she learned we sing at the C=256 pitch to preserve the human voice and instruments! During the performance she was observed singing softly with every Spiritual. Another attendee, who has followed the work of the Schiller Institute and chorus member Kesha Rogers’ campaigns for congress, told a member afterwards that this concert had “healed him” since he had just suffered the loss of a child two weeks ago.

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Worth noting is the impact the Mozart Solemn Vespers on this audience, many of whom knew the Spirituals well. One of the “church ladies” remarked to a chorus member, “you guys were full of the Spirit—even the Mozart was like that!” In observing the ladies during the concert, he noted how they looked at each other in amazement during the intense contrapuntal sections. One turned to two others and mouthed, “I want to clap” after the Laudate Dominum, but held herself back, as did the rest of the audience, until we had completed the entire work.  Following the event, we had a small reception where several of the attendees joined us for discussion; people were just beaming with joy.

Several people inquired about joining our chorus. This was certainly on a higher level than anything that we have done before. We truly unified and brought the community together from all walks of life around beautiful bel-canto music that moved the mind and soul. We were so happy to be joining our friends there in NY as both choruses sang in harmony together in different space times.

For more information about the Schiller Community Chorus or how to join, visit our Houston Chorus page.


SONGS OF A NEW WORLD – Concert June 15th 2019, Quincy MA

A contribution to the struggle for the Inalienable rights of all human beings. To Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. For the United States to overcome our cultural crisis, we must create a new unified culture, founded on the most beautiful ideas and discoveries, contributed by the American experience to the treasure chest of human culture.

Please, join our Community Chorus in celebrating and investigating through music on June 15, 3 PM in Quincy!

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Antonin Dvorak, who was brought to American for the purpose of creating an American classical music culture, by Jeanette Thurber, the founder of the National Conservatory, recognized that that creative surge among American composers and the people in general could be ignited by the beauty and profound ideas found in the American folk music, known today as the spirituals.

Said Harry T. Burleigh:

“It was Dvořák who taught me that the spirituals were meant not only for the colored people, but for people of all races, and every creed.  In New York, I was with Dr. Dvořák almost constantly.  He loved to hear me sing the old plantation melodies.  His humility and religious feeling – his great love for common people of all lands – enabled him to sense the pure gold of plantation song… he understood the message ever manifest:  that the eventual deliverance from all that hinders and oppresses the soul will come, and man – every man – will be free.”

Although the experiment was attacked and shut down to a certain degree, the hypothesis is valid and still reverberates. The fragments exist for the artist, and the chorus, to pick them up and out of them weld together, in one harmonious whole, a nation, through the development of a uniquely American, noble school of classical music.

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Jen at SchillerBostonChorus@gmail.com


Houston Chorus Performs Mozart’s Vespers & Spirituals

The Houston Schiller Institute Community Chorus invites you to their performance of

Mozart’s Solemn Vespers, K.339 & Selections from African American Spirituals

Sunday, May 5th, 2019

Riverside United Methodist Church, 4920 Cullen Blvd, Houston, TX 77004
Conducted by Maestro Dorceal Duckens

Both pieces performed at the Verdi tuning of c=256 Hz.

Admission is free, suggested donation $10.00

RSVP


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